Today marks the birth of one of my favorite romance novelists, Georgette Heyer. Celebrate by rereading an old favorite from her considerable backlist, or by discovering and falling in love with her work for the first time.
During an impressive writing career that spanned almost six decades, Georgette Heyer crafted stories mostly set in the early 19th century during the British Regency period, and her attention to accurate historical detail is remarkable. You’ll come away from any of her books with a confident knowledge of such regency era staples as shiny Hessian boots, buff colored breeches, Almack’s subscriptions, and well sprung carriages (that’s not a weird euphemism – these romances are totally G rated). But the real draw of her novels are the delightful characters and madcap plots. Expect a whole lot of family intrigue, unruly children and animals, nosy spinster aunts, hilarious dialog, and good clean swoonage.
I’d recommend any of her books, but these are two favorites I’ve reread more than once.
Arabella gets the opportunity of a country girl’s lifetime – stay in London with her wealthy godmother and find herself a husband. Her family is poor, so the pressure is on to snag a rich husband.
Unfortunately, Arabella is woefully impulsive with a bit of a temper. En route to London she gets pissed off when she overhears some handsome rich dude rudely suggesting that she’s just another ditzy fortune hunter (sort of true). She makes up a crazy story about being an heiress to show him what a big stupid jerk he is, and because she believes she’ll never see him again.
But of course he happens to be one of the most popular guys in London. Of course. He sees through Arabella’s lie immediately but spreads the rumor of her supposed wealth all around town, because he’s a bored rich guy with nothing better to do. So now poor Arabella is being pursued by fortune hunting men who think she’ll marry them and pay off their gambling debts and past due buff colored breeches bills.
Add to this mess a troubled brother with his own gambling debts, a mangy dog with a perfect name (Ulysses), and one truly pathetic attempt at an indecent proposal, and you’ve got yourself a lovely little romance.
Horatia Winwood, the youngest and strangest daughter of a well-to-do family, selflessly helps her sister out of an arranged marriage to an earl named Marcus by marrying the guy herself. She’s happy to become a countess with a ton of money and fabulous clothes, so really, no skin off her back. And it is to be a simple marriage of convenience, not love, after all.
This is a romance novel, so you know that’s not going to last long. Unfortunately Marcus’s ex best friend (and current arch nemesis) decides to sabotage the marriage by manipulating the naive young Horatia. Good thing Marcus is another Heyer hero who isn’t easily duped by lame lies. He manages to successfully woo his wife and avert various disasters without too much of a fuss.
The romance between the two main characters is perfectly sweet and satisfying, but mostly I love this Heyer novel because of Horatia’s well meaning but worthless brother, Pellham, who also tries to get her out of trouble but with significantly crappier results. While Marcus capably and quietly handles every crisis behind the scenes, Pellham is off planning one crazy scheme after another, culminating in a bungled highway robbery that made the entire book for me.
Up next in my TBR list
Although best known for her hilarious romances, Heyer also wrote several contemporary detective mysteries before her death in 1974. Someday I’ll pick these up, starting with the fabulously titled Why Shoot A Butler?